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Do I need an attorney if I’ve been in an auto accident?

Property Damage Cases

In most cases where you have only sustained property damage, you should be able to settle your case with the insurance company without the use an attorney.  In this type of case, you should take your vehicle to a body shop or the dealership to have an estimate performed.  You have a right to take the vehicle to the shop of your choice, despite the insurance companies suggestion to take it to one of “their shops.”  If your car has been totaled, you are entitled to be reimbursed for the “fair market value” of your vehicle.  You can use Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds,, and Autotrader to help determine the “fair market value” of your vehicle.  Make sure to provide copies of any after-market or non-factory items such as a DVD Player, Navigation System, etc., as these items can help increase the value of your vehicle.

You are also entitled to “loss of use” of your vehicle.  Loss of use is defined as the reasonable cost to rent a similar vehicle for the amount of time reasonably necessary to repair or replace the  vehicle.  This means that you are entitled to be compensated for the amount of time your vehicle is inoperable or in the repair shop being repaired.  The insurance company can provide you a rental car or can give you money to compensate you for the amount of time you are without a vehicle.

Finally, you may be entitled to diminution in value if your vehicle cannot be completely repaired.  California’s jury instructions state: “If you find that Plaintiff’s vehicle cannot be completely repaired, the damages are the difference between its value before the harm and its value after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs. The total amount awarded must not exceed the vehicle’s value before the harm occurred.”

Minor Injury Cases

If you are injured in the auto accident, then you may want to consider at least speaking with an attorney. Insurance adjusters will often try to settle with you days after the accident without you knowing the full effects of your injuries.  Once you sign the Release, you have waived any rights you might have against the driver and his/her insurance company for any known or unknown injuries.  You should at least get checked out by a medical professional before agreeing to any settlement.  If the injures are minor and your medical bills are less than a $1,000.00, then you can probably handle the injury claim yourself.  However, claims adjusters have significantly more experience than you.  Level the playing field by educating yourself by going online and researching self help guides for car accident victims. These guides are excellent resources for dealing with the minor injury claims.

Major Injury Cases

If your case involves anything more than property damage and minor injuries, I would recommend hiring an attorney, whether it be the Mortlock Law Group or another attorney. Adjusters will often times try to convince you that you don’t need to hire an attorney and that hiring an attorney will reduce your net settlement.  This statement is not true.  In 2004, the Insurance Resarch Council conducted a study that showed that people who used the services of a lawyer received significantly higher settlements than those who did not.  Non-lawyers are at a distinct advantage against powerful insurance companies.  Most people do not now how to properly present a case to an insurance company, do not now the law, and do not now how to evaluate the value of a major injury cases.  If you have been involved in a major injury case, please contact the Carlsbad Accident Attorneys at the Mortlock Law Group for a free case evaluation.